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Olfaction in athletes with concussion

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Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) commonly lead to olfactory dysfunction; it is, however, unclear whether and to what degree mild TBI such as concussions, which are common sports injuries, affect olfactory function. We therefore aimed to evaluate smell function in athletes who sustained one or more sport concussions in a cross-sectional design.


Twenty-two University-level football players with one or multiple concussions and 13 control athletes without a history of concussion participated. We measured olfactory function by using the Sniffin' Sticks test to assess subjects' ability to discriminate and identify odors as well as their detection thresholds. In addition, we assessed odor intensity and pleasantness.


We used number of concussions and time since the last concussion as independent variables and measure of olfactory function as dependent variables. Although we did not observe any significant effect of the number of concussions, athletes with a longer delay from time of concussion scored significantly weaker than more recently concussed subjects on the odor identification test and on an aggregate olfactory score. Accordingly, we observed a significant negative linear correlation between the odor identification score and the time elapsed since the last concussion.


These findings suggest a possible degenerative effect of concussions on olfactory function.
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Keywords: Mild traumatic brain injury; olfactory; smell; sports injury

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 May 2012

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